Julie Andrews

Well, it's that angelic, elastic, openhearted, almost unbearably emotive voice, for one thing; an instrument of such lyric force and incredible precision that it should be beamed into outer space as proof of what glorious critters we Earthlings can be. Well, it's that angelic, elastic, openhearted, almost unbearably emotive voice, for one thing; an instrument of such lyric force and incredible precision that it should be beamed into outer space as proof of what glorious critters we Earthlings can be. Then there's the screen presence; the sparkling, wide-open smile (or its sarcastic little sister, the wry sidelong grin), the indefatigability, the absolute willingness to give and receive love, but on her own goddamn terms (think of the last scene in Mary Poppins, after she's bid the children goodbye in that clipped English way, only to be called out by the talking parrot adorning her umbrella handle, who knows she loves those damn kids, Mary/Julie doesn't tell him he's wrong, but she does tell him to shut the hell up, after which she simply flies away, her work done, a lady Shane).

And in interviews Julie's radically ladylike, unexpectedly earthy, very funny, and much more complex than you'd think. She talks very openly about her rough-and-tumble vaudeville wartime childhood, her abusive stepfather, her gay friends, her very real heartache over the botched vocal-cord polyp operation that robbed her of her vocal range, all with no hint of shame or hubris. She's that rare natural phenomenon: a real star who only gets more interesting the more you know about her. A star whom, were she rooming next door, you'd wanna hunker down with during a scary thunderstorm and sing your hearts out.

Julie Andrews is an icon among icons, worshipped, in fact, by other icons for her talent and integrity. Christopher Plummer once said in interview that the making of The Sound of Music was a complete nightmare, with uncooperative Alpine weather, endless choreography rehearsals, annoying child co-stars, and crazy hours, but that he'd do it all again just for the chance to hang with Julie. She's just that fucking much fun, y'all.

What would Perez Hilton make of a Julie Andrews now, if she burst, fully-formed at age 25, say, onto the world stage right now? Who cares? She wouldn't. Unlike other starlets then and virtually all of them now, Julie doesn't seems to entertain neither an antagonism nor a needy solipsistic relationship with what passes for the press. That's not her thing. Her thing is the stuff of stardust, genius, pure pop and high art at the same instant, as well as quiet yet potent gender subversion.

How do you solve a problem like Maria, seeing as how Maria (her character from The Sound of Music) could have been a sappy, corny, preachy, didactic, boring nun-approximation? You hire Julie Fucking Andrews, is how. Julie's Maria is a joyful, profoundly doubting, headlong mess whose atoms come together so gorgeously in song that you overlook the perplexing baby-dyke hairdo and bad dirndls. I had a conversation recently with a friend of mine, another Julie fan, about the SOM scene whereupon she sits on the pinecone. Rather than sitting decorously and uttering a cutesy ooh, Julie plops down, goes horror-movie wide eyed, and through her exclamatory noises and scrambling off that chair, touches hilariously on every moment of horrifically awkward physical comedy you've ever yourself experienced.
That pinecone violated her! my friend Andy giggled.
That pinecone was all up in her lady business! I said. You know Julie Andrews thought that would be funnier, it's like a Chaucer scene in a family film!
It's just one brave acting moment among many.

Consider her polymorphously perverse turn in Victor/Victoria; she both has, and is, the gay best friend. She takes a bath with Robert Preston! And sings Home on the Range! And when Preston's character intones, where the deer and the antelope are gay, she gives a knowing, appreciative chuckle in a surprisingly, gender-fucking low register. I was around ten years old when I saw that movie, and I knew there was something subversive and complex about that laugh. Of course James Garner wants her/him; (s)he's mysterious, confident, expects to be desired. Her secret is part of the package (ahem); and when the anxious Garner's finally apprised of her XY status, damn, it doesn't even matter by then, because whatever his or her gender might be, it's second to her erotic joie de vivre, her incandescent humanity.

Even her hobbies are interesting she's the author of The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, a 1974 kid-lit tour-de-force about a hilarous imaginary land and the limits of authority that's still as fun and as funny today, one of those rare works that will delight kids and amuse their crazy aunts (uh, well, me, anyway).

And she's married to Blake Edwards, who surely sees this giddy perversity in her, too, and for whose film S.O.B. she shows her tits and beautiful tits they are, too yet her showing them feels less a sop to box-office or whatever than, miraculously, a form of drag. Her body, all of it, was simply a costume made for performance, and power resides in all of it. Under those tits, a heart. Under that fine boyish hair, a brain. Under that voice, a laugh.

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